What is our motivation for developing open source software?

Mark KrakeBlog

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When presenting our metasfresh ERP open source software, indicating that it is free of charge and may be copied as often as required, many times people ask: “Why is it that you develop an open source software and give it away for free? Why not make good money selling royalties, as other companies do?“. Our simple answer to this question is: “It’s because we are no software vendors. Instead, we are dedicated to solving problems, improving processes and accelerating corporate growth for our customers. We are convinced that open source is the best medium and our ERP software the best tool for doing so. We give the tool away for free in order to provide a solid foundation for making innovations possible, easier and faster, thus creating added value for us and our customers.”

Customer development and innovative customer relationships – our customers are part of the community

Instead of speculating about what kind of problems our customers could encounter, we define the problems to be solved together with them. When developing our open source software, we consider our customers to be part of the community. The quality of an ERP software can be measured by its ability to efficiently handle the challenges that arise in the respective companies. From our point of view, this is not about creating an endless number of concepts and exchanging documents. It’s about direct communication and observation in a day-to-day business context. The more we can learn from our customers, the better we can develop solutions that impress them. That is our definition of customer development and innovative customer relationships.

Scalable and sustainable innovations – how to turn operating expenses into working capital

Our goal is to create added value and not waste time reinventing the wheel or other tools. Merging ideas that have already been implemented by others with our own to create innovations is the key to progress. In this day and age, numerous networking possibilities facilitate an entirely new way of exchanging ideas, information and transformations. Henry Ford once said, long before the idea of open source software was born:

Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success. If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.Henry Ford

Our open source ERP software metasfresh ERP as well as the corresponding source code is readily available to anyone at any time. Owing to the chosen option of an open source license for our ERP software, the relevant developments and innovations are emerging across the globe. Therefore, we do not look at our own innovations as the ultimate purpose of our work, but rather as an important building block for further developments by us or others, thus creating added value for our customers. From our point of view, open source means scaling of sustainable innovations. Making the source code available to our customers means providing them with the confidence of having obtained working capital instead of just having generated operating expenses, as is the case with royalty-based software.

Sustainable investment in open source software know-how – a chance for all involved

Participating in open source software projects represents a great opportunity for all those involved: Developers can introduce themselves as experts to potential employers, whereas companies like us get the chance to invest in qualified and extremely motivated future employees and to present themselves as innovative and pioneering businesses.

How come not everyone develops open source software?

Open source is at the heart of our business and influences our decisions and actions every day, as we consider it to be an extremely beneficial system in general terms as well as specifically in regard to our customers. Although the original question implies that it is unusual to give away software and tools for free, the concept of selling software only emerged in the 1970s. Consequently, instead of asking: “Why is it that you develop an open source software and give it away for free?”, the question should be: “How come not everyone develops open source software?“.

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About the Author

Mark Krake


Co-founder & Managing Director of metas GmbH. Perpetual innovator and continuous community worker of metasfresh ERP. Free Software, Open Source and UX enthusiast.